Athletes…whether young or more mature, are focused on staying fit physically and mentally. They always have to have their best to put their best into the game, race, sport, or activity. Athletes work out, practice, and eat well to have a balanced diet with just the right amount of energy. Why is it then, so many athletes (regardless of their sport) are at an increased risk of tooth decay?
Tooth decay is a very real concern for people with active lifestyles, and there are typically two factors that contribute to the cause. One – they frequently consume sports drinks, and two – they often breathe through their mouths and have a low saliva flow.
Sports drinks can be even more cariogenic (causing more cavities) than sodas, fruit juices, or milk. Athletes often drink on them constantly for an extended period of time. This allows liquid sugars (natural or artificial) to constantly coat the surfaces of the teeth. An increased length of exposure time causes more tooth decay than normal.
Breathing is important for adequate oxygen flow during an athletic activity. There are actually different forms of breathing that an athlete may try in order to do their best or focus certain muscles. Mouth breathing causes the teeth to be drier. Saliva is a natural lubricant that helps fight tooth decay, so a dry mouth harbors more decay-bacteria and the teeth will get more cavities.
One of the easiest things an athlete can do is to consider drinking more water on a frequent basis, rather than sports drinks. Some studies suggest that sports drinks do not hydrate any better than water anyway. Water cleanses, lubricates, rehydrates, and won’t cause decay.
If you are an athelete, remember to schedule regular dental exams and cleanings with your dentist to screen for new areas of tooth decay and other oral health issues that may have developed since your last visit.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Scott Merritt, BridgeMill Dentistry
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